top of page

Patience: a better way?

I believe it! We receive the lessons we need to learn . . . and we keep receiving until we get it at least half-way right. At least, it seemed this way to me recently, when a trip from North Carolina to Oregon took a total of 50+ hours travel time, there and back. The smart aleck mantra, “Got time to spare? Go by air!” was in my mind as as everything that COULD go wrong DID . . . equipment malfunction . . . fog . . . ice . . . crew change . . . lost luggage . . . extended holding patterns . . . emergency rates at an airport hotel . . . except . . .

Except that, in the end, we DID arrive safely at our destinations. Airline personnel were 100% courteous and friendly. A Travelers’ Aid volunteer pointed us to good-quality food and relatively comfortable chairs for our 12 hours in San Francisco. (Hint: Try the sushi in the International Terminal!)

Patience is a virtue, one hard to come by in a world that counts time in nanoseconds. From soundbites to microwaves, we expect life to come in user-friendly format, and we’re quick to take it personally when it doesn’t.


  • The average doctor’s visit lasts 8 minutes.

  • Some fast food restaurants promise lunch in 90 seconds or it’s free.

  • The optimum height of a highrise is measured by people’s maximum reported toleration of an elevator ride -- 15 seconds.

  • Most people spend less than 50 seconds brushing their teeth; most people think they spend 3 minutes each time!

And on the other side:

Customer Service is rapidly becoming one of this country’s most stressful job areas. Why? Because, after an average wait of 20 minutes on hold, customers are taking their stress out on the human being who takes their call.


Back at that fogged-in airport, and the clutch of more-or-less anxious passengers. One expensively-dressed mam puffed himself up, stomped to the podium, and in a voice heard across the crowded waiting area, “You don’t understand,” he shouted. “I AM IMPORTANT!”

Truth is, we’re all of us – and none of us – important in the larger scheme of things. When big stuff happens, when there’s nothing we can do to effect a change . . . then the best thing to do is do nothing. Hunker down. Wait gracefully. Breathe. Give thanks for whatever good things may be.

In The Power of Patience (Broadway, 2003), writer M. J. Ryan offers several simple steps we can take to put ourselves – and our life – in perspective. I especially like her suggestion to carry a small stone in my pocket. “When you start to feel irritation arise,” Ryan advises, “move the pebble from one pocket to the other, which will help interrupt the anger cycle and give you a chance to regroup.”

Pebbles are good. And if, like me, you are often caught without a pocket to your name, may I offer an even easier idea: Extend your hand, palm down. Focus on it – yours is unique, unlike any other hand in the world. Now slowly – S-T-R-E-T-C-H your fingers. . . Extend them . . . H-O-L-D it . . . and then RELAX.

Relax your fingers.

Relax your hand.

Relax your heart.

Relax into a slower space, where stakes are by definition lower.


(Author: Maureen Killoran)

1 view0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page